It made perfect sense back in 2010 when Greek shipping magnate Evangelos Marinakis bought a soccer team called Olympiacos. He’d supported the club since he was a kid. He had its crest tattooed on his left arm. And his father, who first founded the shipping empire, was among the team’s original investors when Greek soccer became professional in 1979.

What made a lot less sense was when Marinakis followed up his investment by buying a down-on-its-luck club in Britain’s East Midlands called Nottingham Forest. About the only thing it had in common with Olympiacos was the team’s red jerseys.

But Marinakis, who knew a sinking ship when he saw one, set himself a daunting task: he was going to keep both clubs afloat.

At the start of 2024, Olympiacos was struggling to advance in the Europa Conference League and Forest was facing demotion from the English Premier League. Most owners in Marinakis’s position would have waited until the next season for a fresh start—or even cut their losses and run. Instead, Marinakis plowed full steam ahead.

He dug deep into his pockets to fund a slew of expensive transfers and hired new coaches for both teams. Now, Olympiacos will play in Wednesday’s Conference League final with a chance to lift its first European trophy while Nottingham Forest escaped relegation and booked another lucrative season in the Premier League.

“I hate to lose and when it happens I’ll do anything I can to change it,” said Marinakis, who is worth about $3.5 billion and runs an armada of more than 100 ships.

Evangelos Marinakis in the stands at a recent Nottingham Forest match. PHOTO: MIKE EGERTON/ZUMA PRESS

Marinakis, 56, divides his time between shipping, soccer, and owning Alter Ego Media, Greece’s biggest publishing group, which includes two top-selling newspapers, magazines and MEGA, the country’s most popular television channel.

Yet his approach to each of his businesses is the same. Marinakis is anything but shy.

His media outlets, which are often critical of the Greek government, have gained so much traction that Alter Ego Media became profitable this year and plans to list on the Athens Stock Exchange.

His soccer teams have also been at odds with the authorities. Forest was deducted four points last March for breaking Premier League spending rules. The club has also accused referees of being biased against it following a 1-0 loss to Liverpool and after being denied a penalty in a 2-0 defeat to Everton.

“I strongly believe that the Premier League has been cruel towards Forest,” said Marinakis, who spent more than $300 million on improving the club, which was on the brink of being relegated to English soccer’s third tier when he took over in May 2017.

Yet Marinakis hasn’t been dissuaded from doubling down on his favorite sport. He is currently finalizing the acquisition of Rio Ave, a mid-sized team that finished 11th in the Portuguese league.

History suggests Marinakis won’t be content with 11th place finishes for long. Within five years of taking control at Forest, he oversaw the club’s return to English soccer’s top flight for the first time in almost a quarter-century.

“I own the biggest club in Greece and I wouldn’t have invested in England for a smaller team that just wants to avoid relegation,” Marinakis said.

What’s needed, according to Marinakis, is a bigger stadium than the 30,445 capacity City Ground, which has been Forest’s home since 1898. He wants to move the team to a new 50,000-seat stadium, but is also pushing Nottingham’s city council for a permission to add seats to the City Ground.

“We live in an era when revenue dictates success,” Marinakis said.  “We need to aim for bigger goals like other regional cities, Manchester and Liverpool.”

Evangelos Marinakis, left, and Vassilis Torosidis pose with the Greek Cup trophy after Olympiakos beat AEK Athens in 2020. PHOTO: GIANNIS PAPANIKOS/ASSOCIATED PRESS

In that sense, Marinakis is charting a similar course to the one he implemented at Olympiacos.

He bought the club—the most successful in Greek soccer history—in 2010 in the middle of the Greek debt crisis, and proceeded to invest more than Є100 million to cover debts and improve the team’s training facilities. Success followed, as Olympiacos was crowned champion in 10 of the 12 seasons following Marinakis’s takeover.

The past two years have seen the club run into choppy waters, with back-to-back third-place finishes and two straight years without a Champions League berth. Marinakis says that missing out on a place in Europe’s premier club competition leaves a hole of some $22 million in the club’s finances, which he covers himself.

But he won’t be complaining if Olympiacos overcomes Fiorentina on Wednesday and becomes the first Greek team to lift a European trophy.

Soccer ownership, Marinakis acknowledges, can be an exhausting and sometimes exasperating business. Then again, it’s more fun than shipping.

“I enjoy the uphill journey,” he said, “and have no time to be bored.”

Write to Costas Paris at